Monthly Archives: August 2010

death

I was talking to a friend yesterday morning about death. We were sitting outside the Intensive Care Unit in a Hospital (my father is not well and is admitted there) and yesterday morning the patient in the adjacent bed passed away.

Our conversation drifted off in to what happens when we die. Nowadays scientists are beginning to discover that death may not be as bad a painful experience as we think. There are some studies (there is a program called AWARE) done on people who have head near death experiences. A typical case is of drowning when someone is rescued after being almost drowned (the life lingers on for about 2 minutes after breathing stops) and then rescued. Many of them report that it was not a scary experience, but rather there was complete peace. Studies are also done on patients who have survived on operation tables, wherein they report that they could see themselves lying below, as if they were near the ceiling, being operated upon. Scientists are now validating this by placing certain signs near the roof which are not visible in the lying position and asking such people if they have seen it.

While I told all this to my friend, he narrated to me a near-death experience he had some time back. He was on a bike entering the main road from a pocket road. As he briefly paused for a moment to judge the traffic, a loaded truck that was parked on the side He was on a bike entering the main road from a pocket road. As he briefly paused for a moment to judge the traffic, a loaded truck that was parked on the side began to move back. The truck hit the bike and he fell down on the road and the driver unaware of this moved the truck further back. Some bye standers saw this and alerted the driver who stopped the truck just in time to save my friend who was just few inches away from the rear wheel.

He explained to me what went in his mind during the incident. As he was lying there on the road watching the rear wheels of the truck coming slowly towards him, he was blank. He could have moved away quickly, but instead he just lied there resigned and serene. He told me that for that moment, there were no thoughts in his mind, he did not think of his parents or wife or kids. There was no fear too. He was serene and peaceful.

According to Hindu (also other eastern traditions), everyone is born with a blank mind without any conditioning. Throughout one’s life , one adds conditioning which builds up his identity and again at the time of death, the mind returns to the original unconditioned state. Most of the spiritual practices are trying to get the mind (or consciousness) in to that ‘unconditioned’ state.

But I am not sure if there is something as ‘near death experience’. I thought it was binary- death or no death, or is there something between?

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Fear

I had my first roller coaster experience in Disneyland, Paris almost 10 years back. I had never been on a roller coaster till then and had really no clue how it really felt. It was drizzling and my wife and I took shelter near a dome like structure. I then suggested to my wife – anyway we are waiting here, why don’t we check what is inside. So we went inside and were ushered to a boat like structure and until the seat belts were fastened I really had no idea what we were getting in to. The boat slowly moved through the mouth of a canon and moved back, and I said – this is cool. And then suddenly it shot in to darkness, making rounds after rounds at unimaginable speed. I was not breathing (I think so) and closed my eyes and if I recall my mind was blank. I could hear people screaming and I remember once or twice I stretched my arm to check if my wife was still there. After while the boat came to a halt and I opened my eyes to see stars and moon right in front (This ordeal is called Space adventure or something like that). What a relief, and I gave a sigh of relief. But that didn’t last long. It all started again (we had to come back to earth, right?) and we were again in the dark making rounds. We were so much shaken by it that when we were literally trembling as our train to Paris began to move. I was so sure that I could never do it again, and if I do, I would simply be dead. For almost 10 years, I have never attempted it again (also similar stuff like Giant wheels..)

Few months back we were in a theme park near Bangalore where we had passes for all the rides. There was a roller coaster, a smaller one though, and my little daughter wanted to have a ride. I was sure I couldn’t do it and I tried to persuade her to talk he out. No way, she was very adamant and also extremely enthusiastic. After lot of deliberation, I finally decided to let her take a ride. But there was a bigger problem, I couldn’t send her alone. So reluctantly I decided to accompany her.

 As I stood in the queue, there was a battle in my mind. Against all my reasoning ( it was anyway a small one, it was free etc..) there was FEAR. I could feel fear building in me like a lump and something in my said – DON’T. I tried to calm my mind, but the fear was there taking over me. I wanted to run away. I was sure something would happen to me if I take the ride? What happens if I had a heart attack? By then we were boarding the roller coaster. I was completely out of my mind. I was watching the other people getting in and my mind said – here is the last chance to escape. All my reasoning had evaporated and the fear had completely possessed me. I finally managed to put my hand up to tell the operator that I am getting down and the precisely at the moment the roller coaster moved forward.

 In a flash, I went blank and as we made laps (not that bad as the earlier one of course), I suddenly realized there was no fear. We did one more round and by the then I was screaming with my kid and actually was enjoying it.

Recently we were discussing about fear and I used this incident to ask the question – Where is fear?

 Where is fear? Fear is only in the mind. The mind forms a rigid ‘concept’ or an ‘idea’ based mostly on a past experience and it tries to avoid it. Normally it is not that bad because you can choose to avoid such situations in the future ( and I think this is essential for survival). But what happens when the undesirable situation is eminent and unavoidable? This is a torture, fear builds up and the mind tries to tell you that you need to get away to avoid the danger. The more severe the danger is and the more close you are to it, more the trauma. You can even sense fear as a physical sensation, you start to perspire, heartbeat goes up and your breath rapidly. If you observe the mind in such a situation (very unlikely though), you can see mind rattling out warnings and reasons why should be avoiding it. It is also trying to suggest different ways to get out of the situation and end the trauma.

In the above incident, my daughter never had any of these problems, because she was excitedly waiting for our turn to board the rollercoaster. It was something she was eagerly looking forward to. And even for me, there was no fear when I was actually on the rollercoaster.

Fear lives on anticipation. And only when you think about it.

I think all animals too have fear in certain situations.But since for humans the things and events also exist virtually in the mind, fear also exists virtually.

Mind and Impressions

Most of us have the delusion that our thinking is conscious and intentional. But this might be far from truth. I think we have no clue what the mind does with the magnitude of information and sense perceptions that we receive every day. Even things that you don’t notice, are picked up by the subconscious mind and processed. Here is an interesting experience that shows how subtle this is.

About three days back I was in conversation with a colleague on Salary benchmarking. During the discussion he told me that at “Oceanus Builders” (this is a construction company in India), this is what they pay for a 15 year experienced engineer. We continued the conversation and I forgot all about it.

Yesterday night we were in a restaurant for a team outing and one I had a person called Navjit sitting next to me. We were there for about talking and eating.

During my sleep yesterday night I had a dream. In one part of the dream, I was walking with Navjit and he pointed to me an area (there was something like a communication tower there) and told me that ‘Oceanus Builders’ were planning to construct a building there, but it did not go forward because of a technical flaw. I asked him if it is something like a design error and by then the frame of the dream changed.

I remember the dream clearly because at some point, we climbed on a rooftop and I fell from there and I woke with a start. What is also interesting is that this person Navjit is recently purchased an apartment and of late I saw him (and heard him) discussing issues related to it with people over phone.

So in my dream, I actually connected three things and tried to put them in to a meaningful incident. What is surprising is also that in this case, I woke up and caught the dream. So we could be seeing hundreds of such dreams in our sleep and do not remember them at all.

Is it that the mind is trying to do some organizing during sleep of all the information that comes in, to make some sense or is it that some neurons just misfired?